Jacques Gauthier's foursome which included Zack Bilawka, Brayden Payette, and Jordan Peters arrived in Dauphin on New Year's Eve in 2020 to compete in the junior provincials at Credit Union Place and the Dauphin Curling Club and when they did, they were one of the favourites to win the entire event.
And the team that was placed in the Extreme Force Red Group got off to a sizzling start as they won their first seven games of the event to top their pool which earned them a berth in the 1vs2 page playoff game. That game came against Team Brett Walter which featured Lawson Yates. Team Gauthier proved to be too strong as they picked up a 7-2 win to advance to the finals while Team Walter dropped to the semifinal.
Before the event started, Gauthier and the entire team were speechless in how great the facility was put together to host the top junior event in the province. The team's perfect 8-0 record was on the line in the finals when the team once against came up against Team Walter, but this time, it was a different story. In a great back and forth game that featured eight of the top players in the province, Team Walter was able to secure an 8-7 win as they won the gold medal heading into the nationals.
"Even though we lost to Brett in the final, we were able to take things out of the week," said Gauthier. "We played so well all week, we just didn't have it in the finals."
But they weren't the only Manitoba team advancing as by making the final, Team Gauthier went to Langley as Manitoba #2. After winning their first two games at the nationals, the foursome struggled in an 11-3 loss against Nova Scotia. That loss ultimately appeared to wake up the finalists in Dauphin as they ran the table the rest of the way. They won eight straight teams including an 8-6 victory in the finals against Team Newfoundland & Labrador.
In the finals, Gauthier shot 88% while Peters was 91%, Payette was 91%, and Bilawka was nearly perfect at 99%. The win gave the team a berth at the world championships in Russia.
"We just felt that we were very sharp all week, so we went into the finals with a very good mindset," stated Gauthier. "There were definitely nerves, but we just felt confident. We had a chance to pick a really good set of rocks that we were comfortable with, and we started with hammer."
Although two Manitoban teams represented the province at the nationals, there would only be one Canadian representative at the world championships in Russia and that was Team Gauthier.
Fresh off winning the Canadian title a few weeks prior in Langley, Team Gauthier was ready to get things going in Krasnoyarsk, but a slow start is what occurred. Team United States scored a single in the 10th to down Team Canada, 5-2. Gauthier's foursome would figure things out the rest of the way as they ended the round-robin with seven wins in their last eight games as they were playoff bound.
A 7-4 win against Team Germany in the semifinal propelled Team Canada to a dominating win in the finals against Team Switzerland, 7-2.
"We just kept it simple in the final and we never panicked which was important," said Gauthier.
Tim Hortons Brier:
The Calgary curling bubble will be jam-packed once again this week, just days after Team Kerri Einarson won their second straight women's national little last Sunday. Now the focus switches to the men's national curling championship which begins on Friday evening in Calgary.
Manitoba was unable to hold a provincial championship so Team Jason Gunnlaugson earned their berth as Team Manitoba to the Brier after they won last year's title. Team Mike McEwen is playing as a wildcard team this week.
For so many Manitoba curlers, their chances to play in the Brier were ended when Curl Manitoba wasn't able to host a provincial event, but that wasn't the case for Jacques. Just a couple of days before Christmas, Jacques was given an early birthday present.
He picked up his phone and on the other end was Gunnlaugson and Jason got right to the point and asked Gauthier if he wanted to be a fifth-man for his team.
"I honestly had to pinch myself, I didn't know if he was being real," ended Gauthier. "I thought about it a few days so I could make sure I could make it work with school and as soon as I found out I could, it was an instant yes."
Parkland curling fans had the chance to watch Gauthier in the provincial final at Credit Union Place just more than a year ago and now, you might get the chance to watch Jacques curl on the national stage at the Tim Hortons Brier.